Today is the 27th November 2015, today is the day that the children of Kathmandu have formed a human chain around the 29 km stretch of ring road that surrounds the city. They have decided to take a stance and protest about what is being done to them and to raise awareness to the United Nations to help resolve the current crisis that is affecting all their lives. Their message their government and India is clear “Let us live, we’ll pay you back”.
- Stop the Blockade
- Protect our Human Rights
- Education is our Right
- Don’t spoil our Future
As you may know, Nepal is a country that is trying to heal and rebuild from the losses that they suffered during the earthquake in April 2015. Their main source of income is from tourism and the thousands of trekkers that pass through the country to hit the dizzy heights of the Himalyian mountain ranges. This source of income has been non existent until recently, until it became safe for people to travel to the mountain ranges.
Now the country is being affected by a new crisis. For the last 100 days there has been a blockade on the import of their supply of fuel coming across the Indian border. The situation is now so severe that;
- Trucks and public transport vehicles are queuing for 3 days to get a ration of fuel
- There is no supply of gas canisters for cooking.
- There is a shortage of food and medical supplies
- 80% of business’s cannot open they have no raw materials for manufacturing
If people cannot work they cannot buy food, send their kids to school, it has become a vicious circle. I talked to my friend Arjun about the situation, his family have been cooking on a wood stove for the last 10 days. It will not be long before the wood supply is also on ration. The price of electric stoves has risen by 300% making this an unaffordable option for most families.
The Nepalese government revised their constitution recently and this has become a major issue for some of the ethnic groups in the country, causing violent clashes and 50 deaths so far. One of the ethnic groups that is driving the blockade is the Madhesi. Nepal says India is making it worse by tacitly supporting the Madhesi. The UN are urging the governments and ethnic groups to hold talks and resolve the issue as blocking the supply of food is an infringement on human rights.
It seems to be a very complex situation and it was difficult for Arjun, Sri and Harka to explain exactly what is causing the problem. So what in the constitution is causing the issue?
We have been told by several people that the Indians want the water supply from the states and Indian wants to claim the states for their own. This story appears to differ from the documented issues on discrimination that the Madhesi are claiming.
Here is an example of an issue in the new constitution: If a Nepali woman marries a foreign man, their children cannot become Nepali unless the man first takes Nepali citizenship; whereas if the father is Nepali, his children can also be Nepali regardless of the wife’s nationality.
The Madhesi communities are ethnically and socially close to Indians just across the border, their complaint is they have always faced discrimination and lack of acceptance by the Nepalese state. They say the above citizenship measures will disproportionately affect them because there are many cross-border marriages.
Whatever the drivers behind it, the blockade needs to stop before the situation gets any worse. We need raise awareness to put pressure on the governments, ethnic groups and the UN to help get the matter resolved.